This shot of me was taken in the winter of '69~'70, at Camp Mosier, with crew in the back (note the head in back), ready to head up to the hill. This is after about a year of driving this truck nearly every day (and many trips up & down "Seven Rivers Road"). The last two digits of the serial number on the hood indicate that it is a 1968.
It arrived in Korea only two months before I did, and had less 100 miles on it, and it still seemed brand new. No "new car" smell though, just the strong oily smell of the new canvas seat upholstery and top covers. The ride was very stiff and the whole truck felt tight. Apparently, the other drivers hadn't "warmed" up to it yet, and still preferred to drive the Duce, so it had spent most of it's time sitting in the motor pool. There was one annoying characteristic that nobody liked, it had a tendency to drift to the low side of the road if there was any "washboard" while traveling at speeds over 40, it just sort of floated off and you couldn't get the steering to respond until you slowed down. We had to be very mindful of that on the highly crowned back roads of Korea or it could easily end up in a ditch, or worse yet, in a rice paddy (yuck!). After noticing how a good load made the ride more civilized and handling much more manageable, I decided to try lining the bed with a layer of full sandbags. The result was so wonderful, that everyone agreed the sandbags should stay there, and so they did. The funny thing was, it didn't make a detectable difference in the ride height, or the power. Note the silver split rim rings in this photo, and the semi gloss paint that shows up on the hood in the next photo (taken on top of the hill, from part way up the radar tower).
This was a custom paint job we had done in a near by village. For
several bundles of empty sandbags we got the whole truck painted (inside
& out), with a mix of gloss black and olive drab. The result was a
very nice, very dark, semi-gloss green, and with the silver highlights
like the rim rings, and black trim (door handles, mirrors, hood latches,
convoy lights, "D" rings, etc. etc.) it really stood out from all the other
vehicles sporting their flat lifeless OD paint, and looked very
sharp, especially when it was clean.
put a brass doorknob on in place of the standard shift knob, as a final
personal touch. The bullet holes on the side window were decals my
mom sent me (???) so I stuck em on there for fun, they looked real ('till
you got close) and they sure did turn heads!
The Korean painting
process was very unusual, and took less than an hour! There were four civilians
there that started to work before we were even out of the truck. They took
the canvas tops off, removed the ax & shovel, and threw a cover over
the seat, and as we were bartering our bundles of sandbags, we watched
in amazement as they started spraying the truck.... the whole truck...
inside and out... headlights, windows, steering wheel, gauges, tires, everything!
Then they all got out their rags and paint thinner, and wiped the paint
off all the aforementioned items, and while two of them put our canvas
and tools back on, the other guys painted all the silver and black stuff.
It turned out so good (and the price was right;), that we came back with
one of the Duce-an-a-halfs, and had it done too. They painted the exhaust
stack silver on the Duce, and that looked really great! Of course this
didn't escape the notice of the Motor Sergeant at CRC, and he wasted no
time tracking me down to see what I had to say about it.
Well I was getting short (leaving soon), and I didn't really care what
he thought about it, but much to my surprise, he loved the idea, and wanted
to find out where we had it done. He was responsible for about 150
vehicles, and he wanted to paint them all. Since it was unfeasible
to ferry that many vehicles back and forth to a civilian village without
attracting attention, he sent up a 5 ton, and brought all the guys and
their stuff back to the motor pool at CRC, and proceeded to have them paint
the whole fleet! He got about 75 trucks done, when some of the "Brass"
took notice, and questioned where the funds were coming from. A few
missing bundles of sandbags here and there wasn't a big deal, (that many
"fell" out of trucks all the time), however a couple of truck loads of
sandbags is another story. I didn't get to hear how that story ended,
I left soon after the sandbags hit the fan! All I know is the Motor
Sergeant and the Supply Lieutenant were sweating bullets!
I found this note written on the back of the above Duce photo. I sent this photo to a buddy, who returned it to me when I got back, it is short and to the point, though quite the understatement. This photo was taken in the mountains on the way to the hill, on one of the better stretches of the road, probably during the two weeks it took the motor pool to fabricate new straps for the 5-Quarter's fuel tank. This Duce was delivered while I was there (again the numbers on the hood show it's a 1969), I had to go down to the city of Inchon to pick it up, and I was the first one to drive it. It used a pneumatic dash mounted switch to control the front axle engagement unlike our older one which had a lever on the floor to manually engage the transfercase, and though I never really trusted it, it seemed to work fine. The real disadvantage of the Duce, was all the tires on the ground. It's ride was extremely harsh even with a layer of sandbags in the back, and it was very prone to flats, which we had to change (and fix) ourselves. It averaged one flat for every week of use! In comparison, the 5-Quarter never had a flat as long as I drove it, and that was about 90% of the time.... I hated changing flats!
The winters were very
cold and bleak (as some of the photos imply), and made the country seem
like the very end of the earth (if not the moon), however, with spring
came lush green growth that sprang forth from every possible place, and
stayed that way until fall. In the early summer came the monsoons,
accompanied by the tropical heat that would hit 95º~100º for
weeks, and humidity would track within a digit of the temp, 95%~100%.
So spring and fall were the nicest by far, but the "wheeling" in these
rigs was a year round blast, and the various weather conditions added variety
and kept it interesting and challenging.
Back to the Story